On Gift-Giving, and Being Terrible at It.

Image from Tumblr

Let’s be brutally honest with each other: you’re either good at giving gifts, or you’re just NOT. It’s kind of like having a nice butt—while there are certainly things that we can do to help ourselves along, at the end of the day we’re all pretty much at the mercy of our genetics and BOGO dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

I am, and I say this without a trace of false humility, a decidedly POOR TO HEINOUS gift-giver. Almost everything that I wrap is a cry for help with tissue paper. I kid you not, one Christmas I presented my father in law with a bottle of $3.99 balsamic vinegar reduction from Trader Joe’s and a SPONGE. Perhaps the most alarming piece of this scenario? I was genuinely excited for him to unwrap them.

I wish so much that were a lie.

While my sorry gift-giving has left scores of hapless victims in its unforgiving wake, none have unwrapped more disappointment than the unsuspecting man that married me. When we said “I do”, I truly believed that Kellan’s gift moving forward would forever be, you know, me. Somehow that idea didn’t fly because APPARENTLY WE ARE LIVING IN A MOVIE. My long-suffering husband has since turned almost everything that I have ever given him into a repressed memory that won’t come out without years of therapy.

The maddening thing about Christmas and birthdays is that they cycle back around with numbing regularity every. single. year. Thus, like clockwork, my stress level come mid-December rivals that of 2007 Britney. On any given day I am one crowded mall trip or frenzied Amazon Prime search away from collapsing into a full-on existential crisis, shaving my own head and mercilessly beating a photographer with my umbrella.

I digress.

I do a mediocre job of picking out gifts for the women in my life for the sole reason that I am a woman, and I own things. I give the women in my life things that I would like to have, and then promptly repo them if they’re not appreciated. Win-win! But twice a year when I have to buy a gift for Kellan, I entirely dissolve. My brain becomes play-dough—somehow I am GENUINELY taken aback that it’s already time to get him something again. WHAT DO YOU LIKE? DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES? HI HAVE WE MET?

I have quite literally NEVER known what to give him, and two weeks before Christmas this year found me scrambling as per usual. In a flash of wildly unexpected brilliance, I remembered that Kellan had long wanted a new wallet—a wallet EXACTLY like the tattered number he already owned. [Y’ALL. That wallet has SEEN SOME THINGS.]

I mustered the faith of Abraham, ventured to the mall and was all SWEET FANCY MOSES IS THIS HELL?!

Girding my loins, I wandered into a department store where the dead-eyed salespeople in dirty Santa hats had clearly long since given up on pretending to maintain any semblance of order. Piles of mismatched merchandise teetered haphazardly on disheveled red display tables, spilling onto the floor and leaving the whole scene looking decidedly more like the aftermath of an armed struggle with the undead, and less like a Macys. Faint strains of the radio crooning in the background attempted to convince me that I was experiencing the most wonderful time of the year as I began to panic-dry-heave in the corner.

FOCUS. I was on a mission to save Christmas, and an old, still-in-the-box wallet sitting in our re-gift bin told me that I really did have to get it right.

Resigned, I began to pitifully dig through a pastel pile of rumpled Timmy Hilfiger shirts and leather wallets. I sorted through box after box until FINALLY, I found something that looked precisely like a brand-new version of Kellan’s old wallet. Saving Christmas and escaping the undead for 29.99? TAKE MY MONEY.

Christmas morning found me impatiently awaiting my overdue pat on the back as I eagerly anticipated Kellan’s reaction. I proudly handed him his gift, beaming as though I had just discovered America. Kellan dutifully opened his wallet and uttered all of the delighted exclamations deemed necessary by polite society. He even RAN to get his old wallet and immediately began transferring the contents. Smalls, this is so great!

The thing is, I think that he actually meant it. But shortly thereafter, his eyes began to twinkle and an irrepressible grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. Smalls, do you want to open YOUR gift now?

He ran to retrieve a large manila envelope, and excitedly placed it in my hands. I opened it and DIED A THOUSAND DEATHS when I discovered:

Hamilton tickets.



Friends. I bought my husband a money clip for $29.99. He bought me two tickets to go see Hamilton on Broadway in NYC.

I was simultaneously elated and mortified and all I WISH WE WERE IN JAIL SO I COULD SHANK YOU.

In summation: I give up.

Goodbye forever.

[But for real, am I alone here? HOW DOES ONE LEARN NOT TO SUCK AT THIS? Can it be outsourced?? For the love, help a sister out.]


  1. This is the BEST.

    And though you may suck at gifts- you’re wrapping game is on point. (Fleek? Can things other than eyebrows be on fleek? Is fleek still a thing?)

    • ashleypdickens says:

      Um. Girl. While I AM actually great at wrapping, that picture [which was incorrectly linked yesterday!] is from a girl on Tumblr. BLESS. [Can we just talk about how you both write AND are a photographer?? I want to be you when I grow up.]

      Also, if you figure out where I can get my eyebrows on fleek, let me know…

  2. Gifts are tricky for us too…

    some ideas:
    Decide beforehand on an amount you’re spending on each other?

    Also: would having him tell you ideas of things he’d like be bad? I help Ben out ;-)

  3. I agree with Emily about picking a $ amount ahead of time. What about a gift certificate for a nice dinner out? Then he gets food and you as gifts!

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